Another ho-hum summer with Donald Trump: Here are all the "big" stories we wish we could forget

It was the summer of Singapore, Helsinki, "children in cages" and Michael Cohen. But there was ever so much more

By Andrew O'Hehir

Executive Editor

Published September 1, 2018 1:10PM (EDT)

 (AP/Evan Vucci)
(AP/Evan Vucci)

This was the summer that began with Rudy Giuliani getting booed at Yankee Stadium — for any longtime New Yorker, a nearly unbelievable event — and ended with a white Republican congressman sorta, kinda calling a black Democratic mayor a “monkey” on live TV. If you have entirely forgotten both events, or never noticed them in the first place, you are not alone.

I’ve been working in and around the news business for exactly 30 years, and the truism used to be that nothing much happened during the summer, except in presidential election years. Even then, the mud-slinging, attack ads and earnest campaign lies didn’t commence in earnest until after Labor Day. Oh, there were stories of sorts: Heat waves, natural disasters, blockbuster movies, peculiar pop songs that dominated the airwaves for weeks at a time. Some surfer somewhere in the world would get nibbled by a great white shark — or possibly just see one — and the news magazines would announce an existential attack on the human species.

Donald Trump has an obsession with sharks, according to one of his (alleged) extramarital sexual partners. I could spend several hundred words trying to decode that (which is admittedly my usual mode) but let’s not. It’s the laziest holiday weekend of all, at the end of a hot, wet and exhausting American summer. I think it’s safe to say the news has not been quiet. We need a break.

Our third summer under Donald Trump, the God-Emperor of All Media, was even crazier than the first two. If that’s possible. You probably remember some of this summer’s major Trumpian news events — the summit in Singapore, the summit in Helsinki, the “family separation” policy, the Paul Manafort verdict and the Michael Cohen plea deal — but pause just a moment to reflect that all that, and much more, unfolded within the last 10 or 12 weeks. And there’s a lot more stuff, I promise, that under another president or in another universe would have seemed like a big deal which you probably don’t remember at all.

Just to honor the scale of the madness, I offer the following highly selective guide to the summer of 2018, and its cascade of News You Can’t Use, or even understand. It may, I suppose, offer some illumination to try to consider these pseudo-events as part of a pattern, but I’m honestly not going to do that right now. (A not to the detail-oriented, including my teenage son: I’m aware that summer did not technically begin until June 21, and won’t end for another three weeks. We’re dealing with convention here, not the solar calendar.)

Let’s roll back the calendar to the distant era known as Memorial Day, when no one outside my little corner of the east Bronx (OK, and northern Queens) had ever heard of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, “Roseanne” was the hottest show on network TV, John Brennan still had a security clearance and we all assumed we could safely delete the name “Omarosa” from our collective memory.


Rudy Giuliani booed at Yankee Stadium

You have to understand why this was so weird, from the NYC perspective. Traditionally, the Yankees have an extremely white, suburban and conservative fan base — exactly the New Yorkers who loved Rudy when he was mayor and are the most likely to be Trump-friendly. (If you actually live in the city and are a leftist or liberal, you’re likely to be a Mets fan.) That dynamic has shifted some in recent years, partly because the Yanks haven’t dominated the baseball universe the way they once did. But this had to be a stinging rejection for the president’s lawyer, from what he would have assumed was his core demographic.

Roseanne Barr called Valerie Jarrett an ape, apparently ending Barr’s checkered showbiz career

This one was kind of strange too, in that Roseanne has been a full-on member of the boiled-owl moonbat right for years now, and has repeatedly retweeted or endorsed crazy conspiracy theories of the #Pizzagate variety. Why an ordinary racist insult was worse than making grandiose claims about George Soros, Hillary Clinton and their links to child sex trafficking is a mystery.

GOP congresswoman ignores guns, blames porn for school shootings

Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican, said that “a big part of the root cause” behind the epidemic of school shootings was the widespread availability of porn. She did not elaborate on how one leads to the other, but this is now a central right-wing tactic, as Salon’s Amanda Marcotte has repeatedly explored: Suggest some bizarre and irrelevant connection, with no evidence, that may enable those who wish to ignore the obvious to do so.

Trump's double standard: White Indiana hero awesome; black Nashville hero ignored

Further exercises in obviousness: The president lavished praise on a white man who stopped a potential mass shooter in Indiana, while the black man who shut down an apparent racist or white supremacist attacker at a Waffle House in Nashville was acknowledged only briefly and begrudgingly.

Samantha Bee blasts "feckless c**t'" Ivanka Trump

This happened the same week as the Roseanne story. I guess it’s fair to observe that Bee shouldn’t have used that language, since it distracted everyone from the point she was trying to make. I’m also not sure she used “feckless” correctly.


Trump and allies push another elaborate conspiracy theory no one can understand

Does anyone actually remember what “Spygate” was supposed to be, or how it supposedly proved that there was a massive Deep State conspiracy to stop or overthrow Trump? To be fair, it’s hilarious that so many liberals are suddenly big fans of the FBI and the entire national-security apparatus, and even if none of the right-wing counter-theories is individually comprehensible, they have succeeded in creating a penumbra of doubt that sustains Trump’s true believers.

John Boehner gets real about the Trump takeover of GOP: "There is no Republican Party"

Not trying to whitewash the dude, who was a total obstructionist as House speaker. Frankly, we should all be grateful he never reached a “grand bargain” with Barack Obama on spending and Social Security. But it’s striking how much Boehner’s brand of country-club, Chamber of Commerce Republicanism is now an artifact of the past.

Kim Jong-un sends Donald Trump a letter in an oversized envelope

We actually spent time wondering whether he was calling attention to the president’s tiny hands.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt allegedly asked aide to buy an "old mattress" from a Trump hotel

I get that Pruitt was trying to live in D.C on effectively nothing, empowered by the Republican version of “freecycling.” But WTF? Was this a sex thing? A religious-shrine thing? A puckish reference to what supposedly occurs in the supposed “pee tape”? Highly-rated mattresses from Amazon just aren’t that expensive, Scott. This didn’t make sense.

Trump cancels Philadelphia Eagles’ White House visit, after Super Bowl champs spurn him first

I mean, it definitely would have been awkward, given the president’s suggestion that black NFL players (a large majority of the Eagles, and the entire league) who kneel during the national anthem should be fired or deported or perhaps water-boarded for exercising their First Amendment rights. But I’m pretty sure there’s been no other recent occasion when the Super Bowl winners and the president overtly shunned each other.

Trump holds summit with Kim Jong-un in Singapore

Considering what happened later in Helsinki, this was close to the biggest non-event of the summer. That’s without even getting into how meaningless it was, and the debates about whether or not Trump got played.

Donald Trump Jr. admits to "Fox & Friends" that his dad is running a "cult" – and it is "winning"

Two reactions to this: Don Junior’s not wrong, but to coin a phrase, I don’t think that word means what he thinks it means. (Bob Avakian, longtime leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, also gleefully says he is running a “cult.” In all seriousness and politics aside, he and Trump would kinda dig each other.)

Trump says he wants to be like Kim Jong-un: "I want my people" to "sit up at attention"

Say that it would be cool to be a dictator and a lot more would get done if so-called democracy didn’t get in the way. Then claim you were joking. Repeat.

Ann Coulter says she's "done" with the Republican Party

Fake news!

As family separation policy goes into effect on the border, Jeff Sessions quotes Bible passages to justify it

There was definitely a constituency that simply loved this policy. Apparently the administration miscalculated how large that constituency was.

Melania Trump's border fashion controversy: “I really don't care, do u?”

Maybe we misunderstood her! Maybe Melania’s bizarre discount-store jacket was meant as a rebuke to conservative critics! But I rlly dont care do u?

In 5-4 ruling, Supreme Court sides with Trump administration on travel ban

This one really confused me, both at the time and now: Wasn’t the travel ban supposed to expire anyway? So there is one now? Is it being enforced? Media and Democrats immediately moved on, and this was in the middle of the border crisis. So who knows?

Sean Spicer is developing a talk show: "Sean Spicer's Common Ground"

Fake news!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeats Rep. Joe Crowley in Democratic primary

Seismic event or low-turnout fluke? Honestly, some of both. But this made clear that the internal frictions within the Democratic Party hadn’t gone away after 2016, and that the usual party cant about unifying to win the election and setting aside these petty differences for now wasn’t going to wash.

Abolish ICE becomes almost a mainstream issue

Most Democrats are still terrified of this one, which was completely on the fringe before Ocasi-Cortez. But in certain districts, for certain progressives, it’s clearly a winner.


Andrés Manuel López Obrador elected to Mexican presidency in landslide

If these things go in international waves, as is often the case, then the veteran leftist’s sweeping victory south of the border could be a leading indicator of a pretty big shift this November. I suspect there’s a knife-edge balance between Republicans (barely) holding the House and Democrats winning a 30-to-40-seat majority.

Rep. Jim Jordan implicated in sex-abuse scandal, runs for speaker anyway

Ohio Freedom Caucus king says he never heard about widespread sexual abuse of Ohio State wrestlers by the team doctor when he was a coach there. Or maybe he heard about it and thought, whatever, a little masturbation on the exam table, who hasn’t done that. Anyway it was the Deep State! Numerous former wrestlers (some of whom say they are Republicans) have now said Jordan knew about it and did nothing. Hasn’t hurt him at all.

Justice Anthony Kennedy retires, Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh

It’s boring that we have to go through the ritual of pretending that Kavanaugh might be stopped. Although I have to say that his pretense of being a neutral or moderate judicial arbiter is a lot worse than Neil Gorsuch’s. It likely doesn’t matter.

Mitch McConnell gets hassled going out to dinner (and lunch!) in Louisville

One of the events — well, two of them — that launched the great “civility” debate of 2018. God help us.

Trump disrupts NATO meeting in Brussels, then attacks Theresa May in interview with London tabloid

Seriously, we all forgot about this immediately because Putin. But the Trumpian rift in the Western alliance was unquestionably an important historical event. It sure sounds to me like he’s still taking Steve Bannon’s advice.

Trump meets Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, is obsequious

OK, you didn’t forget about this one, or not entirely. But isn’t it striking that without quite ever figuring out what this meant, we’ve all kind of swept it under the carpet? As things look right now, this decidedly strange event will play no significant role in the November midterms.

12 Russian intelligence officers indicted by Robert Mueller

I’m honestly not sure how important this is. As I’ve said several times, if there were any evidence that directly linked Donald Trump to the Russian hacking and disinformation campaigns, we’d have seen it by now.

Trump: “I think the European Union is a foe”

From his point of view, this is simply true. See above about Steve Bannon, who likely understands that it’s too late to save the Republicans this November, but may believe he can destroy the EU.

The too-dumb-for-fiction saga of Maria Butina

Alleged American University student and gun-rights femme fatale with numerous Republican connections is accused of being a Russian spy. This was likely an important development although, again, there appear to be no direct links between her and Trump.

Trump revokes former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance

Let’s be clear about one thing: Brennan was a key player in the Bush administration’s torture regime, however much he’d like to whitewash that past, and has been something of a troll in his post-CIA media career. This was likely a road test for Trump: How far can he go in silencing his enemies and pardoning all his pals? Results still being analyzed.

Melania Trump watches CNN on Air Force One; president pitches a fit

Is it possible to imagine a universe where this was actually a story? Oh, that’s right, we live in it.

Trump’s star on Hollywood Walk of Fame repeatedly vandalized

Somebody’s going to write an entire dissertation on this. Perhaps one of the students of disgraced NYU philosopher Avital Ronell, if they can keep her at a safe distance.

Alex Jones & Infowars suspended from social media platforms

I really don’t feel like writing anything about that guy. Is that OK?

Ex-White House official claims Trump scheduled meetings based on what he watched on "Fox & Friends"

This was basically something we knew, but sometimes it’s instructive to hear such things spelled out clearly.


Donald Trump Jr. suggests Democratic platform is "awfully similar" to Nazi Party

Indeed, Don? We await further clarification.

Omarosa, Omarosa, Omarosa

Whatever it was she had to say — I've now forgotten about her all over again — we all breathlessly covered it for days.

Laura Ingraham laments "demographic changes" real Americans don't like, insists she's not a racist

Then of course she said she had nothing in common with white nationalists, didn’t like them at all.

Trump promised to win the war in Afghanistan rapidly; it’s going worse than ever

Of course, two previous presidents have tasted defeat in Afghanistan, as did the Soviet Union and the British Empire before that. Might there be a lesson there somewhere?

Manafort convicted; Cohen flips, which "ought to be illegal"

Beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, as many commentators pronounced? Or just a semi-relevant sideshow that illustrates the massive corruption in every enterprise Donald Trump has ever touched.

READ MORE: America is married to the mob: But now the crime boss in the White House is feeling the heat

Diamond & Silk attack media as “enemy of the people”

That was hurtful.

Pat Buchanan says John Brennan "would have been challenged to a duel and shot" by Andrew Jackson

Vintage Pat! I'm glad to see he hasn't totally lost it. I wrote Buchanan an email right after Trump’s election asking him to comment, and I told him I had been present in Houston for his famous “culture war” speech in 1992. (Which is true.) He declined to discuss Trump on the record, but congratulated me for being a witness to history. Thanks dude!

Sen. Bill Nelson claims Russia has hacked Florida's voter registration records: Is it true?

I’m certainly not a fan of both-sides-ism, but this feels a lot like Democratic fake news. No one in the federal government or in elected office, from either party, has Nelson’s back on this one.

Trump goes full white supremacy with South Africa tweet: Does he want a "race war"?

I mean, he doesn’t want to call it a "race war" as such. And it might be more accurate to say that he thinks there’s already a race war and that black people started it. He definitely still thinks the Central Park Five were guilty, by the way.

Trump vows or threatens to fire Jeff Sessions, for about the 11th time

Any compassion for Sessions is misplaced, but his must be a truly miserable life

John McCain dies; White House flag goes up, down and then up again

No comment required.

Black progressive wins Florida primary, gets tagged with “monkey” slur by opponent

No, Rep. Ron DeSantis didn’t literally call Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum a monkey, and quite likely had no racist intent. That doesn’t much matter.

How much does any of this matter, in actual fact? Let’s leave all such questions for after the holiday. Fire up the BBQ or get to the beach. Hey, they also found a lake on Mars this summer, raising the probability of life on that planet by about a million percent. I can't even guess what next summer will be like -- but I know where the Labor Day beach party is happening.

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By Andrew O'Hehir

Andrew O'Hehir is executive editor of Salon.

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